20 November 2010

Animals and Monsters

We railed the last of it, exchanged my luxury shades for his authentic backpack, and left for the train station.
Time for us was a pile of antiquated bricks; he dropped me off with our goodbyes swift and without remorse; pallid remarks, lackluster jokes, nasty thoughtways were slapped on as shoddy mortar. He could get good coke though, and I owe it to him that that was and will be the only time I transact with Hispanic gangsters on fast motorcycles.
Up then down. The ticket lady covered in sweat decamped this feeling of relief, informed me maximum capacity of said train had been reached. She told me it’s better to book ahead online than pay upfront, and she made it sound like my cash was losing value as we spoke. I asked her if it was and she said she wasn’t sure what I meant.
It was 2:30. The next train was tomorrow morning at 10:20. I knew I wouldn’t call Alex. He had nothing more to offer. I had entirely bested the situation. Just before we left he'd gone to the bathroom, and the thief in me had managed to cram his dad's neat old-fashioned briefcase and third edition of Jude the Obscure inside my newly acquired backpack. No, I would not return. So I walked upstairs into the street's sunlight, wishing I had my sunglasses, but assured myself the times felt a backpack more necessary. I started imagining Dora the Explorer snorting lines off intimate body parts, and was on my way.
First things are always first. I had $40 and some change along with a bit of pot, but no papers. Sifting through the city's framework, I’d wandered into the gay district, welcomed on all sides by colorful eccentric sex shops. I kept my virtue in tact, eventually finding a tobacconist. I took the tattered briefcase out, submerged the papers and pot underneath the ocean of jargony scribblings, and was on my way. The briefcase was so I could feel okay in public places. It was questionless that it served as the ultimate defense against any accusation of impropriety. I'd shaken hands with my new role for the day: Knight #1 in ragamuffin armor.
And then I met the test of putting this theory into practice. This grey man with crooked nose, spatulate beard, and a rusted bike stopped me in my tracks to state, “Important business.” He sounded deliberately factual, though the words gargled when spoken. His voice was that of a crocodile with a mouthful of raspberries. At once I was fascinated, and instantly agreed, and asked if he’d like to join me on this important business of mine.

“Without doubt, quite right.” He hopped on his bike staying at my pace and side. We fared straight down the street; first we scratched away at education.
“You’re in school then I take it. What’s your major?” I told him English, and he agreed that’s a fine vein of work. And again, moments later, “So you’re a student I assume-- yes? Well what’s your major?” Testing the waters, I told him pre-law. He wasn’t as avid about this career choice, but still pleased him nonetheless. I told him a cousin of mine already had built his own firm from scratch, and that he doing quite well for himself. He told me his grandfather did the same thing, that it was all due to schooling, and what was my major? After the fourth time, telling him I was the first pre-med student to also be general surgeon, I was boring myself, so I asked for his name.
I thought of the alphabet, the letter, standing for Judaism; the importance of walls; hammers and nails. This pointless thought was soon dismissed so I could focus on what Jay was explaining to me.
“See that man who just passed, his name is Butterfield, er, well, Mr. Butterfield, and did you know that he goes to washrooms, washrooms to cheer himself up? And he owns an expensive apartment on the other side of town. Well, he did anyway.”
I was fond of that word “washroom”. But several blocks back we had passed a pastry shop called Butterfield’s Bakery; it was here that I realized through horse sense that this man is homeless and suffers from insanities of sorts, and that I would be spending a good deal of what was now evening with this man swimming in and out of the windows of my mind.
He was a resource of radical chic, a distracting my thoughts from its lacking cocaine; and, being fatigued by the greed which replaces cocaine, I was surprised when a sudden generosity came down from the heavens and struck. He was poorer in mind, and I was poorer in spirit, and to barter was inevitable. Like a mother and her even measurements, the shaken sugar to the cinnamon bread, moments would be with a purpose. And in this state, I finally informed him of our business together, that is, a good location to smoke what we had. It went without saying that enjoying one another’s company was inherent in this activity. He looked pleasantly surprised, yet it was hard to tell.
While we were on the hunt, he told of a hemp festival he was present at a couple months ago, and then proceeded with the lesson of every single section of the city, which I did not learn because I did not know what he was saying. Soon enough we were at the solution of a nearby park, smoking undisturbed underneath a tree, which I would like to say was oak, but I did not know that either. He took his time with the joint, resulting in the story of his failed trial with success.
“The flying pencils idea was near miss with millions, I swear to you.” It was one realization after another, and now I know all humans are the same when high, moonstruck or not.
Naturally, we were soon on our way to get something to eat, my treat. A car passed us on the street.
“Say! There’s a fine looking rabbit!”
Again I was highly amused with his word choice, then saw that the woman driving was black, and thought it modern of him. One very well might have expected a different comment coming from a man of his years. I did have to deconstruct this thought a bit as we made our way back through the “Gayborhood,” as he told me its called, where he treated the residents’ flamboyance like thievery and murder. Constantly shaking his head, he’d mutter things under his raspy breath.
“It’s not right, no. Nope.”
Absorbed with his voice, anyway, and eventually past that block, as if he read my mind, he explained his intermittent mutterings as a fantastical condition. What he had to say was wonderful.
“I’m afflicted because of this here. See here. I’ll tell you. In the war I was mixed up in a bad crowd, in other words, they owned a Greek restaurant. Understand?”
I didn’t ask which war. He continued.
“So the mob, they know all the tricks, so the Greek, right right, he put me in a Japanese choker-- it’s a strangle hold, see, and ever since my throat’s affected. Words get caught in there. I can help it though.”
I asked how he could help it.
It came yawping out like a bird of prey, as loud as humanly possible. I was too ecstatic to notice if people were looking-- this story I couldn’t wait to tell everyone went from splendid to marvelous all in a shout. He was the perfect subject for practicing a blithe attitude in the face of anathema. I pulled him into the nearest restaurant, a pizza place, for they were a dime a dozen.
We went in with many looks and stares coming our way, but I was selfish and thought it my way, so continued to act casual, because I thought myself a man of experience, and was anxious to advertise my prize. Absurdity is a self-proclaimed specialty of mine, and I was eating my fill for the future.
I’d only had traces of it before, but being in such close proximity and so many people being around, I was seriously aware of Jay’s frowziness, as was everyone else, save himself as he obviously was acclimated to his own stench. I bought four slices, two for each of us, and somehow managed to get a seat right in the heart of the place, despite the wad of customers, all of which I was knocking over with my gargantuan backpack. You could say it was the second elephant in the room. We took our seats. The table cloths were classically checkered in red and white, preset with silverware and disposable napkins on top.
“I’m going to the washroom.”
Suddenly I didn’t think the word so special this time around. I was upsetting forty people at once by eating pizza with this man, and I didn’t understand. Sets of eyes were saying a lot of things, mainly that I was wrong to bring him here, that I was wrong. When he returned, it was apparent he hadn’t used the sink, because his hands were still grimy as ever. It occured to me that everyone is pretending to have conversations with us in mind, when he forecasts,
“I’m going to fix my affliction.”
Here it comes.
Forks were dropped, silence ensued; it was like a motion picture. His noise was undoubtedly still echoing in their empty words of the yester-moment. It didn’t bother me, because like I said, I knew they weren’t saying anything, so nothing had changed-- they were just admitting it. At this point, there was only one choice, so I leaned over with keen interest for what he was about to say next, hoping it’d show them a lesson, my not being startled. He told me who he was, in his most savage voice yet.
“I’m a man who tried to change his life with his own hands.”
With only a vague knowledge of where this had come from, I had nothing to say. Then he lied.
“You know, I live with my mother.” This, I couldn’t believe through his smell and age. And the pathetic realization that he was lonely followed, which was followed by the landing of what seemed all the sadness in the world.
All the while, with complete disregard for the purpose of fork and knife, he was eating the sausages off his slices, one by one, with his weathered tips of fingers. Only half of the food stayed in his mouth. The rest spewed out across the tablecloth, surrounding the elbow he leaned on. He ignored the napkin, never once wiping his filthy hands, and constantly touching his face, glasses, and arms only to spread the mess. His strange oral habit was particularly prominent when Jay said any word beginning with “C”. When he asked the waitress, “Can you get me a Coca-Cola?” it was nothing short of a natural disaster, a volcano, organic and strange. The weight of all others’ thoughts had infiltrated my own, the goddamn imposters, and it could not help but be recognized. The militia of customers and upstanding citizens raised their pitchfork in one eye, torch in the other, and I'd been ousted. I made him get a doggy bag for his second piece, and as the girl tied up his plastic bag, we got the most angrily confused stare yet. The taste of taboo stardom was on my tongue for but a moment, and it was already sour.
“Can I get your receipt for that pizza? I’m in a program.”
I figured his so-called program was conning this joint to get another pizza slice next week. I didn't care. I’d of given anything to make him go away, to make them stop pelting me with this communal abhorrence-- Jay had rendered my briefcase inept.
Once outside, anxiety still danced hard on the walls of my stomach, the sun was absent, and the skies were lowering. Within minutes a cloudburst rode in with them. I could barely breathe through the thick air and downpour, chasing after Jay on his bicycle. What we were doing next or where we were going was never discussed, but I knew he was heading straightway to the awning in the distant block. Jay pointed to it and yelped,
“That’s the place!”
Momentarily aware of the outer view, how ridiculous it must look, running in this downpour, flailing my briefcase, my backpack hopping on my back like a monkey, the notion prevailed that it made more sense to be dry than unembarrassed. As he sped away, lengthening my trail, an irrational fear had arrived, much like it did when I was a kid, dashing up the steps from the basement with all the lights off. There was a monster that couldn’t reach the kitchen. But narrow minds can get through any threshold or nook. I pushed them away and thought of Jay, the awning, the top step. Now underneath and protected from the element, the futon shop we stood outside glorified all of the children’s confusables inside my wet head. The outside window read:
I wanted to laugh, and laugh like I got it, but there was still no joke, only made-up ribbons of mean spirits with a generous helping of vicious remarks.
I made any excuse other than the fact I was not an antidote for no companion, leaving him with a granola bar and a thing of bottled water that he couldn’t figure out. I opened it for him. I gave him products of sustenance; he did not do the same. He instead gave me a truth, inescapable like government, the sound of motors, and my name.

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